Penang JPJ, just the start?

Three waves of arrests were conducted at the Road Transport Department (JPJ) in April, which saw more than 100 people interrogated including 75 of the 139 enforcement officers of the Penang branch.

But people are not shocked at the number of people arrested for corruption so far. They are only shocked that it took this long to highlight the problem.

It is unlikely that high-ranking officers in the JPJ were clueless or blind to the allegations of corruption. They, their aides, and their media personnel read the papers, don’t they? Letters to the editor about angst over public roads should have alerted them. How many times have the people reported overloaded lorries, vehicles with broken brake lights, speeding buses or coaches driven dangerously, to no avail?

In one corruption case in the Lumut navy, staff in the purchasing department boasted that they had acquired expensive watches and imported four-wheel drives, or taken the whole family on a holiday. People talked, and one retired officer was so appalled that he alerted various people, including the press. The rest is history.

If the top have no integrity, why should we expect the staff who are lower in the pecking order to act with honesty and perform their work with diligence?

The Penang JPJ scandal involves employees between 32 and 55 years of age. They were allegedly protecting lorry drivers, and were alleged to have received between RM10,000 and RM32,000 per month. In return, they had to ignore violations of transport regulations.

What we know is probably only the tip of the iceberg. If we extrapolate the number of crooked JPJ employees in Penang to those in other states, we are probably looking at hundreds, if not thousands, of corrupt people.

Don’t think of the expose as being just about money for corrupt officials. Think of it another way. All the revenue from the transport violations should have gone to JPJ, to be used to improve working conditions and training programmes, for purchasing equipment, and to increase the safety of our roads and vehicles through proper enforcement and regulation. Instead, greedy, selfish and corrupt JPJ staff allegedly thought only of enriching themselves.

We are used to reading about fatal bus crashes. Investigations show that many drivers were on drugs and had criminal records or speeding tickets. But somehow, their licences were still approved by JPJ.

Corruption has always been around, and the people, the police and the authorities are usually aware of it. We are just baffled that no action has been taken.

Things shouldn’t stop here. JPJ in other states should be made subject to thorough investigation as well.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.